Cast & Crew
One morning, Francisco Torres Martinez sneaks across the border from Mexico to New Mexico and arrives at the dilapidated ranch of old cowboy John McCanless. The cantankerous McCanless, mistaking the intruder for a "mortgage monkey," ropes the unfortunate man and hogties him. Amanda, McCanless' spunky granddaughter, rescues the captive, whom she calls Paco. Although Paco tries to leave, the McCanlesses usher him into the crumbling but homey ranch house, where they offer him a job. Amanda warns Paco that McCanless, who has been living in a dream world since the death of his wife, sometimes imagines that he is a gunfighter in the glory days of the Old West. Although he has apologized to Paco, McCanless continues to rail against Barton Whittaker, the tycoon who has bought the surrounding land and intends to build a dam and flood the area for a resort, despite the damage it will do to the ecosystem. Baffled by McCanless' ravings but pleased to have a job, Paco stays and discovers that he and his employer share a love of music. In town, Amanda discusses the situation with Jimmy, Whittaker's son, who is attracted to her and regretfully tells her that his father will never agree to her suggestion that McCanless' ranch, once an important cattle station, be turned into an historical landmark. Jimmy then drives Amanda to the ranch, where she is infuriated when he reveals her idea to McCanless, who hates the idea of his home being turned into a "dude ranch." When Jimmy responds that he has only forty days until his mortgage is due, McCanless asserts that he has hidden assets. McCanless and Amanda acquire a grudging respect for Jimmy, however, when Jimmy refuses to show any fear as McCanless shoots at his feet. That night, after a bewildered Paco helps McCanless fend off an imaginary Indian attack, the rancher confides his plan to go on a cattle drive to the northern town of Warbag and make enough money to pay the mortgage. McCanless, growing more confused and full of romantic ideas, describes the grand journey they will have, prompting Paco to believe they are headed for the legendary, golden city of Quivira. In the morning, however, Paco is stunned to see McCanless' "herd": a single, much-branded longhorn. McCanless, still convinced that they will be driving a huge herd, gives Paco a contrary little mule, and then teaches him how to corral the steer. As they are practicing, Jimmy arrives and offers McCanless a grubstake of $500. McCanless, realizing that Jimmy wants him out of the way so that he can romance Amanda, approves of their courtship and so accepts the money, although he warns the younger man that he will use the money to disrupt Whittaker's plans. McCanless is especially interested when Jimmy states that Whittaker is touring the state in an antique railroad car, and will be in Warbag soon. The next day, McCanless and Paco go to town for supplies, and while Paco is in the general store, the store owner summons Sheriff Hector Pippin. Pippin informs Paco that the town does not mistreat "wetbacks," but that he will be deported to Mexico nonetheless. The unarmed Pippin is forced to release Paco though, when McCanless rides into the store and demands the freedom of his "top hand." That night, Pippin and state psychiatrist Dr. Kropak drive to the ranch to examine McCanless, but the wily old man, who has decided to begin his cattle drive early, sabotages Pippin's patrol car, then rides out with Paco. After the sheriff leaves, Amanda turns on Jimmy, who reveals his part in McCanless' plans but asserts he never thought the old cowboy would actually go through with them. Amanda and Jimmy then search fruitlessly for McCanless and Paco, who are comfortably camped along the trail. As the days pass, the duo drive the steer through the desert, and when they pass several towns, the delusional McCanless tells the thirsty Paco to ignore them, as they are mirages. Meanwhile, Amanda and Jimmy become closer, and Amanda reminisces about her childhood, when McCanless' imagination was her "best toy." Soon, Paco and McCanless reach Warbag, which has been transformed into a tourist recreation of an Old West town. As tourists watch them, McCanless and Paco enter the saloon and McCanless, believing that a card dealer is cheating, chases the hapless man to the train station, where Whittaker has arrived. Infuriated, McCanless shoots at the train just as Amanda and Jimmy arrive, and Amanda attempts to persuade the Warbag sheriff that her grandfather is harmless. McCanless and Paco are arrested, however, and while Amanda settles McCanless into his cell, Jimmy confronts Whittaker and his cohorts, telling them they are doing irreparable harm. Bemused by Jimmy's desire for McCanless to triumph, Whittaker goes to the jail, where he promises Amanda that McCanless will be well cared for if she turns over the ranch. Blustering at his enemy, McCanless states that he will pay his mortgage with the money from his cattle drive. Whittaker, who has bought off the health inspector, then produces a document certifying that the steer is "tainted" and cannot be sold. The tearful Amanda stops their quarrel and pleads with McCanless to give in, as she cannot stand to see him ruining his health. McCanless pretends to agree, but after the visitors leave, Paco reveals that he has retrieved their pistols. McCanless orders him to wait until dark, then signs the deed papers brought by Wendell, Whittaker's assistant. Outside, Jimmy argues with Amanda, telling her he now believes in McCanless, who has saved him from cynicism. Encouraged, Amanda, with Jimmy's help, breaks McCanless and Paco out of jail, and the desperados ride after Whittaker's train. Inside the club car, Whittaker and his men are celebrating their victory when McCanless and Paco enter. Furious to see that Whittaker has stolen his steer, McCanless orders Whittaker's cronies to jump off the train. Jimmy and Amanda, stopped at a crossing, are astonished to see Paco driving Whittaker's train and give chase. Inside, McCanless challenges Whittaker to a "combat to the death," and places a loaded pistol on the table between them. As the men stare at each other, a conductor is forced to divert Whittaker's engine onto a disused track and while Paco watches in horror, the end of the track rapidly approaches. The train crashes into an abandoned mine, although Paco, McCanless, Whittaker and the steer stagger out, relatively unharmed. Amanda, Jimmy and Wendell arrive and watch as McCanless grabs Paco's pistol, then levels it at Whittaker. Not realizing that Whittaker now respects his rival, nor that the old rancher is not intending to kill Whittaker, Wendell shoots his own pistol and mortally wounds McCanless. A sobbing Amanda and Paco hold McCanless as he dies, and Paco shows him the name of the mine¿Quivira¿and tells him that they have reached their golden city. Later, after McCanless is buried at the ranch, which Amanda and Jimmy will keep, Amanda gives Paco the steer and mule. As he drives the steer back to Mexico, Paco imagines McCanless is riding alongside him, cheerfully making plans for their next adventure.
Larry D. Mann
Paul L. Cameron
Robert O. Cook
John B. Mansbridge
Robert A. Mattey
Frank R. Mckelvy
Robert J. Schiffer
The film features several Spanish-language songs, the titles and composers of which have not been determined. Numerous reviews commented on the resemblance between the film and the novel on which it was based to Miguel de Cervantes' seventeeenth century Spanish novel Don Quixote, about the aged and addled would-be knight who went on a quest accompanied by his devoted companion, Sancho Panza. The Los Angeles Times review mistakenly listed the picture's running time as 64 minutes.
Although the film was announced as being in preproduction in an October 1968 Hollywood Reporter news item, studio press notes revealed that the filmmakers were forced to postpone production for two years, pending Brian Keith's availability. An November 18, 1970 LAHExam article and Hollywood Reporter production charts include Donald Elson, Gene Evans, Damon Medina and Eddie LeVeque in the cast, but their appearance in the completed picture has not been confirmed. Modern sources add Mark Stanoch to the cast.
According to Filmfacts, portions of the picture were shot on location at the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. Studio publicity adds that the ranch used in the film was the Oliver M. Lee Ranch near Alamogordo, NM, and that Alamogordo and the nearby city of Las Cruces were also location sites. The "Warbag" scenes were shot at Arizona's Old Tucson Studio, which was constructed in 1939 and served as the location site for more than sixty film and television Westerns, according to studio publicity and a January 1971 Beverly Hills Independent article. The runaway train sequences were filmed in South Dakota, along the Black Hills Central Railroad line between Hill City and Keystone. Filmfacts noted that the picture did not have a New York City playdate, but "was shown extensively throughout the rest of the country."
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971
Released in United States Winter January 1, 1971